'Flat Area' Contributes To Pakistan's Floods
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
We turn now to a Pakistani writer who has a mango farm about 30 miles from Sukkur. Daniyal Mueenuddin has been on our program, describing both his real and his fictional worlds. So far, the countryside he writes about has been spared the flooding that has engulfed so much of Pakistan, although he does know how destructive the waters of the Indus River have been to his countrymen.
He joins us on the line from London, having just left Pakistan a few days ago.
Mr. DANIYAL MUEENUDDIN (Writer): Hello.
MONTAGNE: Now, as we just heard, the flooding has - that began in northwest Pakistan is moving south and into other parts of the country. How are these areas different, the north and the south-central part?
Mr. MUEENUDDIN: Well, it's a different kind of destruction. I mean, up north, you have very few roads and you have valleys. So when these guys get hit, it's more of a sort of a short-term thing. The water roars through. When we get hit down in the south, it spreads out, and therefore, the destruction is sort of less dramatic, but more long-lasting. And so, in fact, we are worse-hit in one sense.
MONTAGNE: Why is that? Is that because it's a floodplain down there in Punjab area?
Mr. MUEENUDDIN: Yeah. Exactly. You see, in times past, when events like this happen, which happens very rarely at this scale, the river would just spread out, because it's it's, I believe, the largest irrigated plain in the world. And so it's a huge, flat area. I drive from Lahore to my farm, and I never encounter any sort of hill, like, even. There's nothing bigger than an ant hill. It's very flat and very wide, and the water spreads out.
MONTAGNE: And it's an area of farming. You - obviously, you have a mango farm. It's also an area you've described as futile, in fact, I think you once described it as like medieval France. What impact might that have, for good or for ill, on the flooding?
Mr. MUEENUDDIN: Well, two things: One is that there are lots of very small farmers, and these people have no resources. So when they get hit, and when they lose their crop and they lose their seed, it's very difficult for them to plant the next crop. These guys just don't have anything, because they have two acres, four acres. They don't have any means of rebuilding themselves because they're small.
The second thing is that I think there's sort of a callousness among the politicians, because the politicians are generally futile, and I think that they're going to just look the other way and not be concerned with the plight of the millions of small farmers, at least to the extent they should be.
MONTAGNE: Is there a difference between how the people in your area, in the south, in the Punjab, see the government and are seeing government in these circumstances, these terrible circumstances than those in the northwest Pakistan areas, the tribal areas?
Mr. MUEENUDDIN: I think so, yes. And I think that this is the point that has not been enough made in the international media, and I think that this is a point that needs to be understood by Western governments and by the Western people. In the north, they've been fighting for generations, and those people have a very different view of the West than we do in the south.
I mean, granted, in the south, we have a sort of superficial disliking of the West, but I think that fundamentally, this is not a deeply held belief. I think that we've been spared, thank God, the effects of the war that have been going on. And therefore, I think that we are much more susceptible to being grateful if the West can step in and take care of us now.
MONTAGNE: So when you were just there, did you see any indication of the West, in fact, stepping in, of international aid?
Mr. MUEENUDDIN: Absolutely none. Look, it's a very large area, and the area in which I traveled was very small. But I think that all of the effort is being focus in the north, and I think that's very short-sided. You know, I saw nothing. I didn't see any what the people who I've talked to tell me is that, you know, some politician had helicoptered in and sort of sat down for an hour and drank tea, and, in fact, he had done them a disservice because the whole district administration had been spending the last two days establishing a helicopter landing zone, and so on. The government is at least when I was there, which is, you know, now a week old, there was no indication of any kind of presence.
MONTAGNE: Thank you very much for joining us.
Mr. MUEENUDDIN: Thank you so much.
MONTAGNE: Daniyal Mueenuddin is a Pakistani author, the writer of the short story collection "In Other Rooms, Other Wonders." He has a mango farm in the Punjab area of Pakistan.
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